Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day moving

So it was quite an eventful Memorial Day weekend – perhaps not as significant as ones I’ve had before but significant in its own way with a lot of firsts.

Friday night’s poker game was so much fun! Just like at Nearing’s Casino Night event a couple weeks ago after our charitable giving day, I hit a hot streak early (at the previous event I got dealt pocket aces twice in a row) and built a big stack early. I pushed all-in on an early hand with A-J and got called by my friend Stefan (who used to sit across from me at work) with A-10 and won with my jack kicker, doubling up to about $70 (buy-in was $40).

Around 11 pm I was thinking about leaving because I had an early rise on Saturday, but I didn’t want to go out with a big stack since it was my first game there and I thought it would be a little rude. Fortunately or unfortunately, on the last hand I lost about $40 on a hand where I had a straight, someone else had a full house kings up, and we both got beat by quad 7s. So I ended the night down $12, which was a very respectable outcome for my first “competitive” poker game in four years.

Saturday morning I drove out to House PNJ in Astoria, which is moving to Bushwick in Brooklyn and becoming House JAPaN (Jet, Alex, Piper and Ninja (Elisa)). Jet and her friend Daniel (visiting from Arizona) helped me load up Yoshi and I drove to Bushwick, where Piper, Alex and Kiwi were waiting to help unload and start carrying stuff up four flights of stairs while I drove back for another load. I made three trips altogether, and they also moved the big furniture with a moving truck, so there was a lot of stuff.

Their new place is new and modern, with a soaring two-story skylighted ceiling in the main room, with an open staircase leading up to Elisa’s two rooms in the loft and three more bedrooms downstairs. I’m sure there will be many great parties there in the future.

After we were done for the day, I went to visit Puck in Staten Island, where they were looking after their grandmother while the rest of the family had gone to a birthday celebration in PA. We had dinner together and watched an episode of Doctor Who before I left for home to get cleaned up and sleep for the next day of moving.

Sunday I drove back to Brooklyn to neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy for short) where Kacey and her roommates are also moving. In fact, their new place is only a few blocks away from House JAPaN in Bushwick. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the inside of Kacey’s home – I’ve only ever dropped her off late at night and never had the opportunity to make a proper visit. Her room is as tiny as I imagined it to be, about half the size of my small bedroom. But her bathroom was huge by New York standards; it was practically the same size as the bedroom. And since she has three roommates, there was plenty of common living area to enjoy.

Kacey, Becker and I finished packing and moving what was left of Kacey’s room, while Lourdes and Emily (my first and probably last time meeting her since she’s moving back to Buffalo – she has pale skin and soft blue hair) took care of their respective rooms. The new place is only a few blocks away and much smaller, but completely updated so it has beautiful finishes. Unfortunately, instead of two huge bathrooms (Lourdes’ old bathroom was just as large as Kacey’s, with a wall of built-in cabinetry) all four women (Kacey, Lourdes, Hanna and Megan) will have to share a closet bathroom that reminded me of an airplane lavatory. And while Kacey’s room is slightly smaller than her previous room, Lourdes is moving into a room about half the size of her previous room. Like a lot of New York apartments, there’s not really a dining area but the living room is gorgeous. We’ll see if they can make everything fit properly!

Since Kacey’s room was so small, her move was much easier and after we were done we still had enough energy (and were not so disgustingly sweaty) to go out for an early supper at a rustic Italian restaurant Kacey has fallen in love with, Saraghina. I had a grilled octopus salad that was really fantastic, and we shared our desserts of tiramisu, chocolate mousse and pancetta. I dropped Kacey and Becker off and went home to clean up and grab stuff to stay at Puck’s for Memorial Day.

It was a full house in Staten Island since both Puck’s sisters and their husbands were home to share some big news: Ella is pregnant with their first child, the first of the next generation for their family. It was also Puck’s dad’s birthday, so Monday we drove to Queens to visit a Korean-style bathhouse called Spa Castle. Ella couldn’t go since she’s pregnant, so she and her husband left for home in Vermont, and Puck’s mom stayed home with grandmother. Puck’s dad, sister Sophia and husband Robert and their Uncle Alec formed our party.

The experience was actually quite fascinating. We wore waterproof badges on our wrists that opened lockers and kept track of purchases. Once Puck, Sophia and I put our clothes away, we went into the bath area, which is “no-clothes-allowed” to shower and get ready for our full body scrubs. We were set down, completely nude, on padded massage tables and scrubbed head to toe (including a facial scrub and hair washing) by three Asian women, and rinsed with buckets of warm water.

We spent some time in the pools, which each had a digital temperature readout (63, 75, 100 and 109 degrees) and various features, like touch-activated water jets, waterfalls, underwater seating areas and overhead waterspouts coming out of the ceiling. There was also a cold deluge shower outside the wet and dry sauna rooms and a seating area for self-scrubbing.

After a while we went back to the lockers to don our bathing suits and uniforms to go upstairs and meet the men. The middle level is a large seating and dining area with numerous other services and traditional hot and cold saunas. We had some sushi and food from the buffet bar (wonderful Korean-style spareribs), some milk bubble tea and then got manicures and pedicures while we waited for the men to finish their scrubs.

We tried each sauna one by one, and explored the sleeping area, the resting room (where each lounger had its own TV monitor) and the outdoor pools on the upper floor (which were too crowded to use since it was a holiday, no doubt). There’s also a Korean restaurant on the top floor, but Puck and I missed going to that.

Since it was so crowded in the pools upstairs, Puck and I went back down to the women’s bathhouse for some more soaking and ended the day in the heated resting room. This room was a comfortable and dry 100 degrees and scented with a large sachet bag on the wall. One wall had two panels of backlit rippled glass windows decorated with ivy leaves. It was a peaceful and pleasant way to conclude our visit.

We went back home to Staten Island for dinner and some family time before I left to go home and get ready for work in the morning. Puck actually came over the following night after their date with Alex (of House JAPaN) but after I was already asleep. They took a bus to Massachusetts today to visit some friends and get their MacBook fixed.

Today at Nearing we formed a movie club, since we all love talking about movies in the Communications pod. Each month one of us will choose three movies based on a common theme and we’ll vote for one to watch on our projector in the Board Room. Everyone seems really psyched about it, so we’ll see how it goes. So one more viewing night to add to my ongoing marathons with Kacey (Sherlock), Piper (Hitchcock movies) and Puck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel and Doctor Who).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Steampunk World's Fair

It's been a while since I've had time to post. I feel like a lot of things have passed by, but I'll try to hit on the highlights.

Last week Puck came to Poly Cocktails with me and pretty much stayed in a corner with friends while I did my hostessing duties. I had a long conversation with my friend Jennifer about the nature of being genderqueer and using gender-neutral pronouns and then a few minutes later she slipped up and used female pronouns when I introduced her to Puck. How deflating. At least she apologized and expressed a desire to learn correct pronouns.

Wednesday was Nearing's annual charitable giving day, so hundreds of us went out to do volunteer work. My job in all this is to get media coverage, and I did get a TV spot for our local efforts in New Jersey, so I was happy with that. It's the first time I've organized a broadcast interview since I left Houston, although I used to do it quite frequently in my old life.

Thursday night I drove Yoshi back up to Wayne to drop him off for some work, and drove a loaner vehicle to meet with Agnieszka, our first get-together since our Ireland trip together. We went to one of our favorite Polish restaurants (well, my favorite anyway) Royal Warsaw and I got caught up with her tumultuous life. Since my relationship life has been pretty stable for the past two years, she did most of the talking, thankfully. I'm happy to have little drama to report. After dinner I drove down to Staten Island to stay with Puck before our weekend adventure at Steampunk World's Fair.

Friday I had the day off and we had lunch at Macaroni Grill, picked up Yoshi, bought hair dye and got Puck a half-buzz cut so they could do their Delirium costume. We met Alex at the Fair and checked into our hotel room. Ryan came by too, since he lives only a short distance away, and we met up with our friend Aaron (who is the most recent in a small group of people who have stayed the night in my apartment).


The first night was the Goblin Market, where Puck once again traded for memories, names and other intangibles. Alex and I got playing cards with quotes on them from a male burlesque dancer playing a mime. The performers included a magician/escape artist, a burlesque dancer and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band (another reference to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, like Delirium).



We also saw a performance by a Japanese steampunk band called Strange Artifact, their first trip outside their home country. Later outside the Goblin Market I got a picture of Puck with them.


We also talked to this very intricate makeup design of a nurse who looked like she stepped out of a zombie apocalypse or something:


Friday Alex bought a couple pieces of clothes that he fashioned into a costume he dubbed "Nikola Tesla's pervy assistant" (with the aid of some hair wax and my black eyeshadow to make singe marks from too many electrical shocks). He and Puck's Delirium made quite the pair:


We met Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, two of our favorite podcasters at the authors' tables and got free copies of their upcoming book, The Janus Affair.


ENSMB had a new record release party outside under a tent, and there was also a costume contest - check out this wonderful outfit from a steampunk cyborg:


Saturday night we had dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse and then saw my favorite group of the weekend, This Way to the Egress, who once again opened for Voltaire like at Wicked Faire, and this time we finally got to see him perform (we'd tried and failed at the last two Wicked Faires for various reasons). After that I went to bed while Puck and Alex went back down for dancing and merriment into the wee hours.

Sunday we packed up the room and then went to our favorite diner in Somerset for breakfast. Alex and I spent most of the day together looking at vendors and hearing an encore performance by Egress and ENSMB while Puck spent the afternoon listening to author panels. We eventually said our goodbyes, with an eye toward getting together again for my birthday weekend July 14-15. Puck and I drove back to New York and I went to yoga while they chilled at home. In the evening we watched Thor on Blu Ray, which we had picked up at the Best Buy in Wayne on Friday.

Monday was an off day, then Tuesday was Open Love NY with an old friend, Robin Renee (who I used to work with back in 2009 when I was freelancing). Wednesday was the Poly Women's Group, where I met a couple new members and had a nice chat. Thursday I went shopping at Loehmann's and then got a pizza and watched The Secret World of Arriety, a movie I had wanted to see in theaters, but it disappeared too quickly so I got it on Blu Ray when it came out Tuesday. What a beautiful movie, in every way. Loved it. Maybe I should do a Miyazaki marathon soon - I have several of his movies, although for some reason not my favorite one, Howl's Moving Castle. Must correct that soon.

Yay, all caught up. Time to go play poker now. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Puck's Broadway debut

Puck’s grandmother was finally released from the hospital after her 10-day stay, so Puck is now staying home in Staten Island to help take care of her. It was wonderful having them stay for so long, and I think that during this period we’ve managed to grow even more comfortable spending time together and being involved in our daily lives.

Sunday night we saw the first episode of the second season of BBC's Sherlock on PBS and it was every bit as marvelous as the stellar first season. Monday was the first of the month, so just like last month we went down to the Under St. Marks theater to see Shotz with Kacey and Becker. Unfortunately, we got there too late to all sit together. We sat in the back row (which was fine since there’s only about 40 seats in the theater) and they sat in the front row.

The theme this month was Greek myths, and all the plays had to include a kiss, and the phrase, “As for me, I know nothing.” There was a mime presentation of the tale of Narcissus, an inventive association between the history of flight and Icarus, a comical retelling of Phaeton and Apollo, and my favorite, a visit to the Minotaur by Pac Man and one of his ghostly friends. There was another play dealing with the Fates and one that I think had something to do with Sisyphus (or maybe it was someone with OCD who kept stacking soda cans into pyramids).

Upon completion of the plays Puck had to leave for an overnight stay at the hospital and Kacey, Becker and Azizi left for another event so I did some shopping at the Walgreens and went home to clean the apartment and change light bulbs.

Tuesday Puck was back and I was coming home early from work, so we decided to try and see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I thought we were going to have to try and win the lottery for tickets, but Puck went by the theater and found out that they already held the lottery and they didn't have enough entries to sell all the front-row tickets so we could just buy them without having to win them - how fortunate for us!

The show was marvelous of course, and since I'd seen it with Piper last month, I knew they were going to ask audience members to come up at the beginning of the second act to dance on stage. I clued in the usher that we would like to do it, so when the moment came, one of the cast members asked the usher if there was anyone who wanted to come up and dance and she motioned to me. I pushed Puck up to accept the invitation (although the usher thought he was making a mistake by taking them instead of me) and they got to dance a hoedown to the tune of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." Later in the show, I also caught a ping-pong ball that bounced off the stage out of the mouth of one of the cast members that still had her lipstick on it.

After the show we waited outside and got autographs from most of the cast and took some pictures with them. Then we went across the street for a late supper at Famous Dave's Barbecue and back home to sleep. That was a really fun date, and a wonderful cap on our extended co-habitation.

Tonight Piper and I resumed our Hitchcock marathon after a few weeks hiatus. First we went to Bann Korean restaurant at One Worldwide Plaza a few blocks away and grilled a dinner of duck breast and beef shortribs on a gas grill built into the table. I haven't done Korean barbecue for many years, probably since Genghis Khan in Houston closed. It was a very tasty and elegant meal, and it was nice to catch up with Piper, since she's been super-busy with a project at work.

The movie tonight was Rear Window, and unfortunately we couldn't finish it because the disc was damaged, but that's OK because we've both seen it before. Next up is the final appearance of Grace Kelly, opposite Cary Grant, in one of my personal favorites, To Catch a Thief.

Tomorrow night I'm going to see Kacey again at a gallery showing that Storm invited us to (which might finally be the chance for the three of us to reunite since I met Kacey last year). Friday night is MMMM, and Saturday I'm going to visit my old stylist Edison for a haircut. It should be a quiet weekend so I can recharge for next weekend's Steampunk World's Fair, where Puck and I are both looking forward to seeing Alex again.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Playing house

It's been a very unusual week in my life, one that's only happened once before - Puck has been staying with me full-time in the apartment because their grandmother fell ill and is staying at a hospital on the Upper West Side. Puck and their parents have been switching off to watch over her 24 hours a day, with Puck taking the day shifts while their parents are at work.Since the hospital is only a few subway stops away from the apartment, it doesn't make a lot of sense to trek all the way back to Staten Island each night, only to come back in the morning.

So my routine has been thrown off a bit, but it's been really nice having them around and sleeping together each night for an entire week (tonight is the first night they are staying overnight in the hospital). Last Friday we went to the MMMM together for a short visit, but otherwise we've just been spending a lot of time at home because it's mentally and emotionally exhausting of them to be in a hospital all day and I've been my usual busy self at work.

This week I did get a special treat: a group lunch at a highly regarded modern restaurant in Princeton called elements, which specializes in farm to table American cuisine. I started my meal off with a green garlic soup, garnished with smoked mackerel, black pepper and mozzarella. This was the tastiest course of the entire meal.


Next course was housemade cavatelli, a type of pasta that looks like gnocchi, made with wagyu brisket, cauliflower and a 64.5 degree egg (one that is cooked in an immersion circulator at 64.5 degrees Celsius for a very raw presentation).


Finally, dessert was chocolate bread pudding with apricot, blackberry and molasses ice cream on the side. This was actually kind of disappointing, but I have pretty high standards when it comes to bread pudding.


Puck and I have been taking full advantage of our time together by watching movies leading up to the Avengers this weekend. I have both Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk, so we watched those. Saturday night is also the premiere of Season 2 of the BBC's Sherlock on PBS, so we're awfully excited about that.

This week I also brought my violin to the repair shop to be fixed - I'm picking it up tomorrow and I'm looking forward to learning on it. It's part of a whole host of things I want to do tomorrow - it's Free Comic Book Day, so I want to stop by Midtown Comics on 41st Street. It's also Large Size Shoes day at Nordstrom's Rack, so I want to get up early to check that out. I guess I'd better get to sleep then.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

An introvert's manifesto

From an Amazon review of Susan Cain's book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking":

"Without introverts, the world would be devoid of

the theory of gravity
the theory of relativity
W.B. Yeats's 'The Second Coming'
Chopin's nocturnes
Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time'
Peter Pan
Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm'
The Cat in the Hat
Charlie Brown
'Schindler's List,' 'E.T.,' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Harry Potter"

I am tempted to go through all of the subjects covered in this book and give a summary, but better than that is the list of thoughts from Susan Cain's blog, which will give an idea of the thrust of the book:

1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much": thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our "heed-takers" more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.

5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it's cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.

7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.

8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.

9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.

10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.

11. It's OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.

12. "Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.

13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.

14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you've been.

15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.

16."In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Gandhi